Mullin museum to unveil recreation of advanced 1930s Bugatti airplane

Photos courtesy Mullin Automotive Museum
Photos courtesy Mullin Automotive Museum

Classic car enthusiasts know the name Bugatti from the amazing racing and road cars created by Ettore Bugatti and his son, Jean. But did you know that the Bugattis were a family with artistic skills through several generations, creating everything from paintings to sculptures, furniture to cars, and even an ahead-of-its-time airplane?

On March 25, the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, Calif., opens an exhibition, “Art of Bugatti,” that will feature the work not only of Ettore and Jean, but of  Ettore’s father, Carlo, a famous 19th century furniture designer, and of Ettore’s brother, Rembrandt, who was known for his paintings, especially of animals.

In addition to creating some of the world’s fastest racing cars, Ettore Bugatti and Belgian engineer Louis dMonge designed an amazingly technologically advanced airplane in the late 1930s. Their 100P, the prototype was built between 1937 and 1940, had forward-pitched wings, a “zero-drag” cooling system and even “computer-directed” analog flight controls, all pre-dating the development of the Allied forces’ best World War II fighters.

Bugatti 100P - rear overhead view
Photos courtesy Mullin Automotive Museum

Power came from a pair of 450-horsepower engines. The 100P could reach speeds of 500 miles per hour, a speed previously achieved only with twice the horsepower. The aircraft also was compact, with a wingspan of less than 27 feet and an overall length of less than 25 1/2 feet.

Work on the plane halted in June, 1940, and the 100P was taken from Paris at night and hidden in a barn to prevent its discovery by the German military. The original prototype survived the war, but was not in good enough condition to fly.

In 2009, retired U.S. fighter pilot Scotty Wilson, engineer John Lawson and business development specialist Simon Birney began work under the banner of Le Reve Bleu (The Blue Dream) to recreate the airplane using the same plans (at least those that survived), materials and processes used by Bugatti and de Monge.

The completed aircraft will be shown for the first time at the Mullin as part of the Art of Bugatti exhibition.

This incredible piece of engineering and design will receive the broad recognition it deserves, 77 years later.”

— Scotty Wilson

 

“We’ve searched for years to gather the best examples of the Bugatti family’s work and couldn’t be more thrilled to host the 100P at our museum,” Peter Mullin, museum founder, said in a news release.“Bugatti has always been known for their remarkable automobiles, but the 100P is one of the missing pieces that truly shows the breadth and depth of the family’s work.”

Mullin’s museum and his personal car collection focus on Art Deco designs. His 1934 Voisin C-25 Aerodyne won best-in-show honors at Pebble Beach in 2011.

“For the first time, this incredible piece of engineering and design will receive the broad recognition it deserves, 77 years later,” said Wilson.

Plans call for the recreated 100P to make its first flight after its display at the museum.

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